Thursday, April 26, 2007

Billy Thatcher

Billy Thatcher was the co-writer of the 'Princess Tai-Lu' strip, about a magical Siamese cat, in Robin and Robin Annual. I covered his co-writer Shelagh Fraser a couple of days ago.

The Princess Tai-Lu character had a life beyond Robin where the strip appeared for some years (1953-57). Although I've not been able to confirm it, I believe Tai-Lu also appeared on BBC TV and on radio as well as in books. A Princess Tai-Lu figurine was produced by Luntoy in 1952 and Merrythought (famous for their teddy bears) made a Princess Tai-Lu toy in 1955.

With Betty Jardine in Whatever Happened to George (1934)

Thatcher was born in London on 28 April 1921 (I believe his entry at IMDB is wrong about the year based on his entry in British Theatre and his age at death), and made his debut on the stage in 1933 when he appeared in Emil and the Detectives at the Vaudeville. He appeared in Yours Tunefully before taking the lead role in What Happened to George by Vera Beringer at the Savoy Theatre, the story of a young schoolboy who sets out to find a ruby stolen from his father. Other theatre roles included Eskimos Ahoy (Duke of York's Theatre, 1936), the Children's Variety Show, Diversion (Wyndham's, 1941), Rise Above It (Comedy, 1941) and Whitehall Follies (Whitehall, 1942). He joined the Noel Coward Company and appeared in Flare Path (Apollo, 1943), Alice in Wonderland (Palace, 1944), Ethel Fry (tour, 1945) and Tomorrow's Eden (Embassy, 1945). A later appearance was in The Adventures of Alice (Q Theatre, 1953).

As the March Hare in Alice (1953) with Julia Lockwood & Peter Butterworth

Thatcher also appeared in radio plays, films and in Dixon of Dock Green (1959).

Plays written by Thatcher include the comedy And His Mother Came Too (1951) and The Lion in the Lighthouse, with Rolf King (1955), set behind the scenes of a TV panel game.

He died in Marylebone, London, in November 1964, aged 43.

Tai-Lu Talking, with Shelagh Fraser, illus. Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone. London, Heinemann, 1952.
Tai-Lu's Birthday Party, with Shelagh Fraser, illus. Janet & Anne Grahame-Johnstone. London, Twirly Books, 1954.
Tai-Lu Flies Abroad, with Shelagh Fraser, illus. Kenneth Rowell. London, Chatto & Windus, 1955.

(Sorry about the quality of the pics. The Princess Tai-Lu figurine (top) is from a recent eBay sale, the photos, already poor, were further degraded because blogger only takes jpegs and gifs.)

1 comment:

  1. In 1953, the composer Donald Swann (of Flanders & Swann fame) worked with Billy and Shelagh on a musical version of 'Tai-Lu Flies abroad'. Although completed, it was never performed. The Doanld Swann Archive has the manuscripts and correspondence.



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